What I learned from Margaret Thatcher

To some extent, we’ve all been shaped by Margaret Thatcher.

Growing up in an era where sexism was still common, I never imagined there were unsuitable jobs for a woman. After all, a woman was running the country.

But I also grew up in the north-west of England, where resentment towards Margaret Thatcher was deep, and remains more than two decades on.

While supporters left flowers on her doorstep, opponents danced in the streets in Brixton and Glasgow.

Reactions to the death of Britain’s last truly ideological political leader.

Thatcher fundamentally believed Britain was on the wrong track, and committed herself to massive changes she thought essential.

For those who gained from this new order, the rewards could be extraordinary. Those left behind often felt entirely without hope.

Margaret Thatcher was an achiever, and at times it seemed she simply couldn't understand why everyone didn't do the same. Tributes have spoken of an extraordinary capacity for individual kindness, but critics would say they saw little evidence in her years in Downing Street.

Yet despite the brutal recession of the early eighties, the miner’s strike and eleven  divisive years, no Government since Thatcher has sought to undo the bulk of her reforms.

Her most significant legacy remains to this day -- she dragged British politics to the right. David Cameron was the “heir to Blair”, but Tony Blair learned a lot from watching Margaret Thatcher -- she, after all, called New Labour “her greatest legacy”.

Her biggest and often most controversial policies, from widening home ownership to privatisation, are now accepted across mainstream politics.

Now Labour wrestles with how to oppose benefit reform, while acknowledging many of their own voters support a crack-down.

Yet Thatcher's views on Europe seemed unchanged from those of a wartime schoolgirl, and created divisions in her party that remain to this day. The poll tax was the clearest sign that her political skills had deserted her. And her failure to step down before her own MPs rose up against her not only soured the rest of her life, but created anger and resentment that helped keep the Conservatives out of office for thirteen years.

As even her harshest critics concede, you knew what Margaret Thatcher stood for.  She inspired as many people to actively oppose her as support her.

Adore or abhor, you couldn’t ignore Thatcher. A quality rarely present in today's political class.